Open Source is not always Free – how I learnt

“Open Source” means your source code is ‘open’. The antonym is “Closed source”.

Open source doesn’t mean it’s free

Heard it, and I thought I understood too…

But I’s wrong. Even though I pretend to understand this, I actually was not even close to the truth.

  • [Microsoft] Windows is a software, we have to buy it to use it, it’s not open source. Bijoy Keyboard in Bangladesh is similar to this – it’s closed source and have to buy it to use it.
  • Ubuntu (Linux) is a software, it’s free, totally free-of-cost. Avro Phonetic Keyboard in Bangladesh is similar to this – open source and free too.

Cannot correlate these scenario to what I want to learn: Open Source is not free always.

Then I gained the true bravery to ask the right question to Mr. Shabab Mustafa – and then I truly learnt it. Let’s proceed to what I learnt:

You’ve bought Windows Operating System, now it’s yours. Now you want to make some changes there, so opened the source code of Windows, and you’re stunned – you can’t understand any of them – they are encrypted by core. That means, it’s closed source.

But in contrary to that, you’ve taken Ubuntu, and opened it’s source to modify it – you’ll get all its sources there and can modify it wherever you want; because all the code the developers worked with, is there. It’s because it’s open source – sources are not compiled to binary.

So, definition of ‘open source’ is clear now. ☺️

So, if anybody’s discussing on “cost of open source software”, you won’t be astonished.

Meditate – GNU Open Source License Mascot

Meditate – GNU Open Source License Mascot

Let’s proceed to correlate where we failed earlier…

You made a software, all the code are open source – that means, when you will sell the software, whoever buy this will get all its code. So, open source code can be sold! For example: there are many popular premium themes or plugins in WordPress – to use ’em you’ve to buy ’em first. When you buy ’em, they won’t send you the encrypted binary files – they send files where they actually coded; eg. WooCommerce is a popular, open source, WordPress plugin. It has a free version as well as some premium add-ons. Premium add-ons are meant to be bought. And when you buy any of ’em, you can read all their code, and you can modify the code where necessary (being under license obligation).

Similarly, project with closed source can be distributed for free. Suppose you made a software, mass people will get help from it, but you don’t want to share the code. So that if any modification needed, people will call you. But everybody can download the software, can share in a DVD, or pendrive – can use it with all its benefits. In such case you made it closed source and marketed it.

But, software made with open source programming language, can be closed source too. If the core language doesn’t support such thing, you can restrict with a license then.* So that, if someone could get the source by any means, they cannot change because the license doesn’t permit ’em so. In such cases, you can fight against those copyright violence with law enforcement.

Open source could be risky, anybody with my source can simply distribute the code by their name. Perhaps I’m accusing everybody, because I’m bad 😜. …Bad, but sometimes that happens. Bad people manipulate good things,  but good things never stopped emerging. Actually nobody cares such action if that doesn’t hurt much. Because those who doesn’t know to build, steal someone else’s property. But even though they steal, they can’t reach things to mass people, or they can’t provide support for it. So, ultimately they get caught. …But remember, if your property is well licensed, then you can send ’em to jail because of any copyright infringement.

So, which one to choose – Open Source or Closed Source? We’re not here to decide. This article is only to let you believe, with knowledge, that::

Open source doesn’t mean it’s free

-Mayeenul Islam
Front End Designer & WordPress Developer



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